Does IAP Desktop support .rdp files, or anything similar?

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If you frequently use Remote Desktop, then you might be used to creating .rdp files for the servers you connect to most often. An .rdp file contains the necessary details to establish a Remote Desktop connection, and also allows you to set preferences affecting the screen resolution, audio settings, shared devices, and other settings.

IAP Desktop does not support .rdp files, and that’s for good reason: To create an IAP TCP forwarding tunnel, IAP Desktop needs the project ID, zone, and the instance name of a VM. An .rdp file only contains a computer name or IP address (in the full address field) – and unfortunately, that’s not enough:

  • Computer names are often equivalent to instance names, but they do not have to be.
  • Instance names are unique within a project, but not across projects. So it’s not possible to derive the project ID from the instance name alone.

IP addresses are not much more helpful either: A private IP address is not unique across projects, and you cannot easily determine a project ID from a public IP address either.

URL shortcuts

There is another way to open IAP Desktop and connect to a server in a single click however: By creating a URL shortcut.

If you enable the browser integration feature, IAP Desktop registers the iap-rdp: protocol scheme in the Windows registry. Custom protocol schemes are not only recognized by all major browsers, but also by Windows itself: As a result, you can use an iap-rdp: URL pretty much anywhere Windows allows you to put a http: url – and that includes shortcut files.

Suppose you have a project my-project and a VM named my-vm running in zone us-central1-a, then you can create a shortcut file and point it to the URL iap-rdp:///my-project/us-central1-a/my-vm:

New URL shortcut

You can encode additional preferences by adding query parameters. For example, the following URL causes IAP Desktopto pre-populate the user and domain fields, and to connect to port 13389 instead of 3389:


Note however that IAP Desktop does not let you embed passwords in URLs.

If you double-click the shortcut file, IAP Desktop opens and immediately connects to the VM instance – just like double-clicking an .rdp file would launch the Microsoft Remote Desktop client.

For further details about the url format and supported parameters, see Browser Integration in the IAP Desktop docs.

Any opinions expressed on this blog are Johannes' own. Refer to the respective vendor’s product documentation for authoritative information.
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